Oxford University to collaborate with Oracle on COVID variant research

pharmafile | May 17, 2021 | News story | Sales and Marketing AI, COVID-19, Oxford, variants 

In response to emerging variants of COVID-19, Oxford University and Oracle have created a Global Pathogen Analysis System (GPAS), combining Oxford’s Scalable Pathogen Pipeline Platform (SP3) with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), working to help identify new variants and those of concern.

The collaboration builds on the work of a Wellcome Trust-funded consortium, including Public Health Wales, the University of Cardiff, and Public Health England.

Oxford’s SP3 was initially used for tuberculosis and will now be repurposed to unify, standardise, analyse, and compare sequence data of SARS-CoV-2, yielding annotated genomic sequences and identifying new variants and those of concern.

SP3’s processing capability has been enhanced with extensive development work from Oracle, enabling high performance and security plus 7 by 24 worldwide availability of the SP3 system in the Oracle Cloud.

The SP3 system will deliver comprehensive and standardised results of COVID-19 analyses within minutes of submission on an international scale, with the results being shared with countries around the globe in a secure environment.

Derrick Crook, Professor of Microbiology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “This powerful new tool will enable public health scientists in research establishments, public health agencies, healthcare services, and diagnostic companies around the world to help further understanding of infectious diseases, starting with the coronavirus.

“The Global Pathogen Analysis System will help to establish a global common standard for assembling and analysing this new virus, as well as other microbial threats to public health. This adds a new dimension in our ability to process pathogen data.”

The Oracle Cloud will enable collaborating scientists, researchers, and governments to process, analyse, and act on a wide collection of COVID-19 pathogen data for the first time. Including identifying variants of interest and their potential impact on vaccine and treatment effectiveness.

Analytics dashboards in the Oracle system will show which specific strains are spreading more quickly than others and whether genetic features contribute to increased transmissibility and vaccine escape.

Oracle Chairman and Chief Technology Officer, Larry Ellison, said: “There is a critical need for global cooperation on genomic sequencing and examination of COVID-19 and other pathogens.

“The enhanced SP3 system will establish a global standard for pathogen data gathering and analysis, thus enabling medical researchers to better understand the COVID-19 virus and other microbial threats to public health.”

In a statement, the companies said that the next step will be to extend this service to all pathogens while simultaneously collaborating with scientists from research establishments, public health agencies, and private companies to ensure the work can inform decision making on pandemic response strategies.

The platform will be free for researchers and non-profits to use worldwide.

Kat Jenkins

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